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Tradition and Discovery: The Polanyi Society Periodical

Volume 26, Issue 3, 1999/2000

Esther L. Meek
Pages 72-83

‘Recalled to Life’
Contact with Reality

A reengagement of my 1983 dissertation, this essay describes and amplifies the commitment to realism presupposed by Michael Polanyi’s alternative model of knowing, recommending its value for thought and life. The idea of contact with reality replaces an unworkable traditional notion of correspondence. Truth bears indeterminately on reality and thus its assessment is ultimately unspecifiable. We assess successful contact by our anticipation of the discovery’s indeterminate future manifestations (IFM Effect, the reality criterion) as well as the radicality of the integrative coherence achieved (the integrative criterion). Polanyi’s realism offers grounds for a critique of postmodernism. Alternative concepts of truth and progress as well as the value of the analytic method, are examined in light of the Polanyian model.